Today’s lectionary text — customarily read on the Third Sunday of Easter at liturgical churches — is a post-resurrection account of Jesus showing up on a fishing trip and joining his friends for breakfast on the beach.
Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will go with you." They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, "Children, you have no fish, have you?" They answered him, "No." He said to them, "Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.
When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught." So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, "Who are you?" because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs." A second time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go." (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, "Follow me."
At the Wild Goose Festival in 2019, I preached on this story. The sermon focused on a few unusual points: Why the Sea of Tiberias? And what about those fish?
I invite you to listen in. There’s lots of good stuff about historical context and ancient fishing practices, taxes and imperial feasts. I promise you that you’ll be surprised as this familiar story emerges as a radical, transgressive rabble-rousing account about the power of resurrection to take down an empire.
(Please know that it was a really hot summer day in North Carolina — I was melting! — and the sermon was preached under a tent to a very large crowd. Both make it a bit different than a pulpit sermon!)
Here’s the link:
It’s those familiar scenes
beyond the hollowed tomb—
the sudden surprise meeting
with the gardener who knows my name—
that sunset sabbath journey,
approaching stranger, wayside inn,
the evening meal, the certain way
the bread was broken—
the breakfast on the shore at daybreak,
gentle invitation, driftwood fire,
crisp, fragrant fish on glowing coals,
the walk along the sand, those questions.
I can see myself among them
as they shared a meal, a word, a presence,
maybe even laughed together
as the future opened wide, first daylight
dancing full across the waters.
— J. Barrie Shepherd
This poem, “Come and Have Breakfast,” appeared in a recent issue of Christian Century. You can find more of this poet’s work in the Century archive HERE.
WILD GOOSE IS BACK for 2022. Please come! I’ll be there with an amazing line-up of speakers, preachers, artists, activists, poets, and musicians. I hate bugs, humidity, and North Carolina heat. But I LOVE THE GOOSE. Hope to see you there.
CLICK HERE for info and registration.
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